A craft beer, please!

Hamburg's new brewers

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Hamburg has revitalised its mediaeval craft beer scene. Styles and flavours such as acidic Berliner Weiße, fruity-hoppy India Pale Ale or chocolatey-creamy stout are back, all over town. We present the best breweries, taprooms and ideas – and a brand-new Hamburg beer.

Author

André Krüger

André Krüger drinks coffee, craft beer and gin. He likes to listen to music. Mostly jazz or classical music. Sometimes he writes about all that stuff.

More from André

Think Hamburg today, think port, Alster and Elbphilharmonie. But in the Middle Ages the Hanseatic city was still home to hundreds of breweries. Back then, almost every second job was directly or indirectly associated with beer. Industrialisation shrank the number to a handful of large breweries – and variety shrank with it. Fortunately, however, the craft beer trend has now arrived in Hamburg.

Craft beer scene drops anchor in Hamburg

At the end of the 1970s, in despair at the monotonous taste of the well-known beer brands as advertised on TV, home brewers in the USA revived the production of beer made to traditional recipes in their own kitchens – with high-quality ingredients and, above all, plenty of aroma hops and craft processes. A totally positive development, which showed the northerners that there was more to life than the popular pils. Today's scene is livelier than ever before.

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One Saturday last July, 250 passionate craft beer aficionados met at what is now the “Landgang Brauerei” brewery to vote on the latest drop made in Hamburg. In front of the guests, five still very fresh and immature beers were lined up, differing only by the type of hops they contained: some tasted “lemony” (Lemondrop) or of “tropical fruit, with a touch of red berries” (Mosaic). No easy decision, even for the practised palate.

The sun was shining, the mood exuberant and – what most of those present would never have guessed – a piece of beer history was about to be written. That day witnessed the selection of the beer that would represent Hamburg all over the world. The Hamburg beer that won in July is now known as “Lütte Höög”. In the Hamburg dialect, it means something like “Small Pleasure”. The breweries Landgang and Elbpaul, the wholesaler and event organiser Craft Beer Market and the municipal initiative Hamburg on Tour collaborated on its development. A German pils was created using the Lemondrop and Hallertauer Magnum hop varieties.

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“We were very happy with the outcome of the vote. The Lemondrop hop is still a relatively new aroma hop, and was only being used in a small number of other beers in Germany – so it's all the more exciting to be flavouring such a special beer with this hop now. It's that mixture of citrus and herby notes that make the beer very refreshing and delicious,” says Landgang's head brewer Sascha Bruns. The first testers praised it as fresh and pleasant, not too bitter. It’ an equally good match with the down-to-earth local fish sandwich or sophisticated sushi – that makes it a real Hamburg beer.

European première in London

Lütte Höög celebrated its première at the end of October 2017 in London, capital of the European craft beer movement. Though it can truly be said there's no lack of excellent beers in the British metropolis, which boasts more than 50 micro-breweries, it welcomed the Hamburg craft beer enthusiastically. Henceforth Lütte Höög will stand as the liquid flagship of the City of Hamburg and be served in a number of Hamburg taprooms – if you don't want to wait till after work or the weekend, order it online at luette-hoeoeg.de – cheers!

Besides “Lütte Höög”, there are quite a few other craft beers, taprooms and shops to be discovered in Hamburg. This is hamburg ahoi's recommended Craft Beer Route through the city:

Where to satisfy your thirst for craft beer in Hamburg

Buddelship

Warnstedtstraße 16
22525 Hamburg

Kreativbrauerei Kehrwieder

Sinstorfer Kirchweg 74-92
21077 Hamburg
http://www.kehrwieder.beer/

Überquell

St. Pauli Fischmarkt 28-32
20359 Hamburg
http://ueberquell.com/

Circle 8 Brewery

Alsterdorfer Str. 267
22297 Hamburg
http://www.circle8brewery.de

Landgang Brauerei

Altes Mädchen, Craft Beer Store, Ratsherrn

Lagerstraße 28B
20357 Hamburg
http://en.altes-maedchen.com/

Beyond Beer

Weidenallee 55
20357 Hamburg
https://www.beyondbeer.de

Galopper of the Year

Bierland

Seumestraße 10
22089 Hamburg
https://bierland-hamburg.de

Alles Elbe

Hein-Hoyer-Straße 63
20359 Hamburg
http://alleselbe.de/

Von Freude

Colonnaden 72
20354 Hamburg
https://vonfreude.de/
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    Buddelship

    Buddelship brews its beer in a former fish factory in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel, using craft processes and good ingredients. Capacity: 10 hectolitres. All the beers are naturally unfiltered and unpasteurised. While this means they don't have quite the keeping qualities, the full flavour is preserved. All bottles are hand-filled and hand-labelled. Connoisseurs taste the hand craftsmanship in every single bottle of classics from pils to pale ale.

    Warnstedtstraße 16 22525 Hamburg
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    Kreativbrauerei Kehrwieder

    No one else on the craft beer scene is as active as Kehrwieder ("Come Back") founder Oliver Wesseloh. He served a brewer's apprenticeship and went on to study brewery engineering. After a few journeyman's years working with the brewing systems of small beer-makers where he had friends, he established his Kreativbrauerei Kehrwieder in Sinstorf, a creative brewery on the premises of a former cheese dairy. The 2014 World Champion Beer Sommelier produces his popular "Prototyp" there, a hoppy lager, as well as the SHIPA series much prized by connoisseurs, beers with only one hop that differs from brew to brew, with the individual varieties' characteristics clearly identifiable.

    Sinstorfer Kirchweg 74-92 21077 Hamburg
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    Überquell

    The latest addition to Hamburg's beer landscape is Brauerei Überquell. In front of the traditional Riverkasematten restaurant, right next to the Golden Pudel Club, the brewery's brightly decorated brewing tanks strike you immediately. The first sip tells connoisseurs that true professionals are at work here. Every one of their beers has its own signature – and a fair few have names to conjure with, for example the "Palim Pale Ale".

    St. Pauli Fischmarkt 28-32 20359 Hamburg
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    Circle 8 Brewery

    Nikl Jahni has made his hobby his job, working with a small brewing system in a back yard in Winterhude. The Circle 8 Brewery is small, but its variety is enormous: from fresh, slightly acidic Witbier (wheat beer) to caramel-flavoured stout, the right beer is available for every palate and every season.

    Alsterdorfer Str. 267 22297 Hamburg
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    Landgang Brauerei

    Even though the Landgang Brauerei (the former Hopper Bräu) is a bit off the beaten track and primarily a production site, Hamburg's craft beer fans are happy to make the trek to the somewhat remote industrial zone in Hamburg Bahrenfeld. Not only is this where Hamburg's world flagship "Lütte Höög" was developed, the names of the Landgang's proprietary beers also sound intriguing: "Helle Aufregung" ("Uncontainable Excitement") "Amerikanischer Traum ("American Dream") and "Dunkle Macht" ("Dark Force") deliver on their promises. Master brewer Sascha Bruns, who learned his trade at Schoppe Bräu, makes sure of that.

    Beerenweg 12 22761 Hamburg
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    Altes Mädchen, Craft Beer Store, Ratsherrn

    Ratsherrn is something like the pioneer of the Hamburg craft beer scene. When the founders, together with a regional beverage retailer, revived the old Hamburg beer brand Ratsherrn in the early 2010s, it sent shock waves through the beer scene. Now, their really excellent standard beers such as pils, pale ale and red beer are also to be found in perfectly normal pubs and supermarkets, and at fair prices. The special creations from master brewer Ian Pyle's brewing tank are a cut above. He regularly conjures up new, extraordinary creations on the smaller micro-brewing system, they’re normally available only in limited quantities. If you're interested in craft beer, you should definitely book a brewery tour. Naturally, samples of the Ratsherrn beers are on offer.

    Lagerstraße 28B 20357 Hamburg
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    Beyond Beer

    Probably the most extraordinarily wide array of beers anywhere in Hamburg is to be found in the wonderfully assorted Beyond Beer store on the edge of the Sternschanze district (the "Schanzenviertiel"). Alongside regional craft beers, the European craft beer elite is on offer here: To Øl from Denmark and constantly changing beers from Lervig (Norway), The Kernel (England), Ödipus (the Netherlands) and Pōhjala (Estonia).

    Weidenallee 55 20357 Hamburg
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    Galopper of the Year

    The Galloper of the Year sounds like horse racing, but tastes like alternative beer culture. Mine host Gerrit Lerch has brought craft beer to the popular party mile on Schulterblatt. Excellent beers for entry level drinkers and craft beer experts are available here in a relaxed atmosphere.

    Schulterblatt 73 20357 Hamburg
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    Bierland

    Good beer was to be had in the Wandsbek district of Hamburg before craft beer became hip. Proprietor Esther Isaak de Schmidt-Bohländer has carried a wide range of German and international beers at Bierland since 2005. Frequent tastings are held here, enabling keen beer drinkers to widen their taste horizons. In the Bierguerilla blog, Esther shares her knowledge with the community.

    Seumestraße 10 22089 Hamburg
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    Alles Elbe

    Alles Elbe in St. Pauli is a combination of shop and pub, selling beers (and other foods) from the River Elbe area. There's also a country-style platter with bread, ham, cheese and home-made vegan dips to go with the fresh draft beers.

    Hein-Hoyer-Straße 63 20359 Hamburg
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    Von Freude

    In 2013, Natalie Warneke and Martin Schupeta quit their jobs and went into beer-making. Their brewery's called Von Freude ("About Joy"), and it does what it says on the label. They develop their recipes in the kitchen at home on a tiny experimental system, which these “gipsy brewers” then produce on larger systems belonging to other breweries. In the early years, the two were to be found at practically every food market. The work has paid off.

    Colonnaden 72 20354 Hamburg
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    Besserbrauer

    If you can't get enough of craft beer, take a look at the Braubox ("brewing box" from the Hamburg startup Besserbrauer. The beer brewing kit for home use supplies everything you need to make your own: freshly packaged ingredients, illustrated instructions and all the utensils for the brewing process.